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Faces of Latin America

Faces of Latin America: Fourth Edition (Revised)

Duncan Green
with Sue Branford
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 290
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  • Book Info
    Faces of Latin America
    Book Description:

    Faces of Latin Americahas sold more than 50,000 copies since it first appeared in 1991, and is widely considered to be the best available introduction in English to the economies, politics, demography, social structures, environment and cultures of Latin America. Duncan Green and Sue Branford take the reader beyond the conventional media's fixation on the drug trade, corrupt politicians and military leaders, death squads, and guerrilla movements to celebrate the vibrant history and culture of Latin America's people. Faces of Latin America examines some of the key forces - from conquest and the growth of the commodity trade, military rule, land distribution, industrialization, and migration to civil wars and revolutions, the debt crisis, neoliberalism, and NAFTA - shaping the region's political and social history. Green also analyzes the response to these transformations - the rise of freedom fighters and populists, guerrilla wars and grassroots social movements, union organizing and trade movements, liberation theology, and the women's movement, sustainable development and the fight for the rainforest, popular culture and the mass media - providing a fascinating and unparalleled portrait of the continent. This new edition is thoroughly updated and covers recent developments in Latin America such as the growing costs of export agriculture, the rise of Brazilian manufacturing, connections between the war on drugs and the war on terror, the social costs of neoliberalism, the Argentinian default, the search for new economic models in Venezuela and elsewhere, the decline in direct U.S. military intervention in the region, growing urbanization, urban poverty and casual employment, outmigration and the importance of family remittances from abroad, rampant environmental destruction, the struggles of indigenous movements, and more.

    eISBN: 978-1-58367-326-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 7-7)
  4. Map of Latin America and the Caribbean
    (pp. 8-8)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 9-10)

    Latin America has long been portrayed to the outside world through stereotype and myth. It started back in the sixteenth century when El Dorado, the mirage of a golden king in a golden city, first excited the Spanishconquistadores’greed. Back in Europe, idealized accounts of the Inca and Mayan civilizations inspired Thomas More’sUtopia.The West has both plundered and been dazzled by Latin America ever since. Some of the greatest Latin American writers, such as Mario Vargas Llosa, Isabel Allende, and Gabriel García Márquez, were, in the words of one critic, “the equivalent of the Amazon rainforest, providing...

  6. 1. The Curse of Wealth:: Economics

    • History and Power
      (pp. 13-20)

      From Tijuana in the north to Cape Horn in the south, ringed by islands in the Caribbean Sea and both Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, Latin America is a region defined by shared colonial experience. Colonialism’s most obvious legacy is linguistic. From Mexico southward, Spanish, Portuguese, and, in a few cases, French put the “Latin” into Latin America (the English-speaking islands of the Caribbean and a few mainland ex-colonies such as Guyana are not included). Even the name “America” comes from conquest, derived from that of Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci.

      The apparent facial similarity between Andean villagers and the nomads of...

    • The Commodity Trade
      (pp. 21-37)

      Fourteen thousand feet up on the Bolivian plateau, Cerro Rico (Rich Hill) looms high over the bleak mining town of Potosí. A giant rust-red spoil heap, it tells the story of Bolivia’s cruel past and impoverished present. For two centuries after the Spanishconquistadoresmarched into the Andes and defeated the Inca Empire, a stream of silver ore flowed down the slopes of Cerro Rico, through the furnaces and mints of Potosí and over the sea to Spain. Hundreds of thousands of press-ganged indigenous laborers died bringing out the ore. The silver rush made seventeenth-century Potosí into the largest city...

    • Silent Revolution: Market Economics
      (pp. 38-64)

      São Paulo is made of cheap concrete. Millions of tons, poured in a hurry, spewed forth to make houses, tower blocks, factories, and flyovers. Within a few years rain and sun leave it stained and crumbling, but quantity matters more than quality, for dilapidated buildings can always be replaced by bigger and newer constructions, using yet more concrete. The flood of concrete that created the great megalopolis of São Paulo is part of Brazil’s rush for industrialization, a titanic effort that has turned a relatively primitive coffee exporter into an industrial power, the fifth-largest economy in the world. However, like...

  7. 2. Ballots and Bullets:: The State, the Military, and Politics

    • The State and the Military
      (pp. 67-87)

      In August 2004, the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, overcame a recall referendum on his government, resoundingly defeating a powerful homegrown U.S.-backed opposition that was prepared to use every means to get him out of office. Six million Venzuelans, 58 percent of the votes cast, backed Chávez to remain in office; the 70 percent turnout was unprecedented for an election in Venezuela.

      When Chávez was elected for the first time in 1998, his call for radical change was the exception in a region ruled by conservative leaders: the dictator Hugo Banzer in Bolivia; the free marketeer Carlos Menem in Argentina;...

    • The Left in Latin America
      (pp. 88-106)

      In the 1970s no Western student’s dorm room seemed complete without its poster of Che Guevara, with beret and beard, gazing mistily off into the middle distance. Che personified the myth of the guerrilla fighter, caricatured by Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa inThe Real Life of Alejandro Mayta:

      His beard had grown, he was thin, in his eyes there was an unconquerable resolve, and his fingers had grown calloused from squeezing the trigger, fighting fuses and throwing dynamite. Any sign of depression he might feel would disappear as soon as he saw how new militants joined every day, how...

  8. 3. Land, the City, and Environment

    • Promised Land: Landownership, Power, and Conflict
      (pp. 109-125)

      The priest is holding an open-air Mass for the indigenous coffee pickers. Women in their bright traditional costumes listen on rough benches under the hot sun; the men sit on the ground, hats in hands. Round about are their tents, made of transparent plastic sheets stretched over sticks. Maize grinders, essential for the staple food, tortillas, are mounted on branches stuck into the earth. A few possessions are hung from other branches, clear of the pigs.

      In Guatemala such scenes are reenacted every December, as the coffee harvest starts and indigenous villagers are trucked down from their tiny plots of...

    • Mean Streets: Migration and Life in the City
      (pp. 126-138)

      The tourist hotels along Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro are some of the most expensive real estate in the world. Luxury tower blocks, their balconies bursting with foliage, overlook beaches strewn with perfect brown bodies sporting skimpy bikinis known locally as “dental floss.” Far above the beach, dozens of hang-gliders circle lazily down from one of Rio’s extraordinary bare-rock mountains, to which clings the Rocinhafavela, a shantytown that is home to 350,000 of Rio’s poor. Shimmering in the heat haze, Rocinha looks down on the beaches like a bad conscience.

      Although the rate of migration has slowed, shantytowns...

    • A Land in Flames: The Environment
      (pp. 139-156)

      The burning season starts in June in the Brazilian Amazon. The sky turns a dirty ochre, as a pall of smoke closes local airports and cuts off whole towns from the outside world. Each year the flames engulf a vast and irreplaceable area of virgin rainforest. By 2010, a fifth of the forest—an area twice the size of France—had been felled. Even though governments are increasingly trying to stem the destruction, they are finding it difficult to monitor such a huge area. In some remote areas of the Brazilian Amazon, cattle farmers are still using defoliants, similar to...

  9. 4. Identity and Rights

    • Race and Ethnicity
      (pp. 159-173)

      Latin America has moved on from its colonial days, when a tiny white elite ruled over an indigenous majority.Mestizaje, or racial mixing, describes the intermingled nature of the majority of the continent’s population today. Whites mixed with indigenous peoples created amestizorace, whereas whites with black African-descended peoples producedmulattos. Black and indigenous mixes were often termedzambo, or “black indian.”

      While most studies of race still concentrate on the indigenous experience, increasing attention is being given to the history, culture, and everyday lives of the continent’s Afro-Latin Americans. There are significant populations of descendants of Africans in...

    • Gender and Politics
      (pp. 174-194)

      Penha is an imposing figure, a big confident woman who has risen to become president of the Alagoa Grande Rural Workers’ Union in Brazil’s drought-prone and poverty-ridden northeast. She recounts her life story, the words half lost in the drumming of a sudden downpour which turns the street into a river bearing garbage from the nearby market. A broken home, starting work at age seven, a mother who died from TB when Penha was twelve, early marriage and struggling to feed her six children—hers is the story of countless poor Latin American women. Then came transformation when she joined...

    • Social Movements and the Struggle for Change
      (pp. 195-206)

      The first sign of the squatters is a huge red flag flapping above a depression in the hills a few hundred yards away. Across two barbed wire fences and an arid, sandy hillside lies the cluster of huts thrown up weeks ago by forty landless families. They have called the encampmentEsperança(Hope). Already the inhabitants are making the first improvements: tiles are starting to replace plastic sheets on the roofs of the huts, whose walls are made from branches tied together with twine. To provide safety in numbers, 500 people originally occupied the site. When ten armed policemen promptly...

  10. 5. Culture and Religion

    • Writing on the Wall: Culture, Identity, and Politics
      (pp. 209-231)

      Every evening the suburbs and shantytowns of Latin America grind to a halt as anyone with a television settles down in front of the latesttelenovela,or soap opera. TV-less neighbors drop by for the show and an animated discussion about the latest twist in an often bewildering plot. Afterward, telenovela addicts can go online for an extra fix of gossip and opinion on one of the hundreds of dedicated websites that cater to Latin America’s 216 million Internet users. And addicts they are: when the last episode ofCradle of Wolveswas shown, a lurid account of a ruthless...

    • Thy Kingdom Come: The Church
      (pp. 232-246)

      In the main square in front of Guatemala’s national palace, a paunchy preacher in a shiny new bomber jacket is haranguing the crowd. Grinning as he shouts into a fat blue microphone, he talks of drought, disease, and salvation, exhorting everyone to praise the Lord. An “Alleluia” rises from the largely female audience. The preacher is an Evangelical Protestant, and he is standing outside the capital city’s Roman Catholic cathedral. Inside, everything is cool and white after the dust and heat of the square. The smell of candle wax fills the air as a line of indigenous worshippers of all...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 247-248)

    Latin America is in ferment. The signs of modernity and change are everywhere. The Internet, TV, and public transport have transformed the lifestyles and aspirations of all but the most isolated communities. The sharp hustling world of the city has replaced the slow seasonal cycle of rural life. Politically, the region’s depressing round of dictatorship and democracy has been replaced by an unprecedented degree of political stability and civilian government. A Catholic continent is going through a breakneck process of conversion to Pentecostal Protestantism.

    In the 1990s a battery of external influences—including the IMF, northern governments, and international capital...

  12. Chronologies
    (pp. 249-256)
  13. Further Reading
    (pp. 257-259)
  14. Index
    (pp. 260-272)